Diné-centered research reframes the Gold King Mine Spill: Understanding social and spiritual impacts across space and time

Rebecca J. Clausen, Carmenlita Chief, Nicolette I Teufel-Shone, Manley A. Begay, Perry H. Charley, Paloma I. Beamer, Nnenna Anako, Karletta Chief

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


This paper explores how Indigenous-led research reframes the impacts and response to environmental disasters in the context of acid mine spills in rural communities of the Southwest United States. The collaborative research project addressing the Gold King Mine Spill (GKMS) designed qualitative methodologies that center Indigenous worldviews and contribute to broader understandings of environmental justice. The research team, led by Diné scholars and community leaders, gathered qualitative responses from 123 adult participants in twelve focus groups from three rural communities on the Navajo Nation. The project incorporated fluent Diné speakers and cultural consultants to lead focus groups in a manner consistent with cultural worldviews. The analysis of the focus group data resulted in original findings that reframe previous understandings of environmental harm by broadening the boundaries to include: 1) social relations across time; 2) social relations across space; 3) spiritual relations; and 4) restoring balance. The findings allow for greater insight into the colonial context of disaster on rural and Indigenous lands and confronts colonial-rooted disasters through Indigenous-informed political action.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)449-457
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Rural Studies
StatePublished - Jan 2023


  • Diné
  • Gold King Mine Spill
  • Indigenous environmental justice
  • Navajo Nation
  • Relational identities
  • Settler colonialism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Development
  • Sociology and Political Science


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